Joseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) Reading.

A voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future online

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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 13 of 17)
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homes on these breezy heights. Benita is a great place for
elephants. During the dry season they come down from the
mountains to the lowlands and make serious trouble with
the negroes' gardens ; they not infrequently are seen on the
beach, cooling their tender toes in the briny surf. Those
who are fond of hunting would find this a good game
country during the dry season, which lasts from May to
September, although with the exception of elephants, game
is not as abundant as it is south of the equator.



From Batanga, southward, the climate along the coast
grows rapidly cooler ; the reason for this is, that a strong
ocean current from the south flows along the coast, coming
as far north as Batanga, where it turns to the westward,
and then to the southwest. This current flows at the rate
of from two to three milles an hour, and brings the cold
water of the South Atlantic to cool the coast of the
equatorial regions. The prevailing winds are from the
southeast, and these, blowing diagonally across the river
of cooler water, makes the sea-breeze very cool and refresh-
ing ; as a consequence the coast region near the equator
and for some distance south of it, possesses a delightful
climate, by no means so hot and sultry as strangers imagine
must be the case.

From Batanga, southward, fish become more plentiful
as the water becomes cooler, and they are also of better
quality. These fish congregate mostly at the mouths of
rivers, where their food is most abundant ; some kinds are
caught with the cast net, but the larger and finer kind are
taken with hook and line. There is very little trade along
this part of the coast ; ebony, redwood and rubber being
the principal articles exported.

At noon the Kisanga was off Cape St. John and, turn-
ing her prow to the eastward, she entered Corisco Bay.
This bay is thirty miles long, and twenty miles wide, but,
while there is considerable anchorage ground, yet it is so
full of rocky ledges and coral reefs, as to be of little value
for ocean steamers ; vessels drawing from four to six feet
can go everywhere, and so the bay may be considered more
in the light of inland navigable water. There is a river of
considerable size called the Muni, that empties into the
northeast corner of the bay, and is navigable for river
steamers for seventy or eighty miles. The shores of Corisco
Bay are hilly, covered with a thick forest growth and are
very beautiful. The population is somewhat scanty, but it



increases the farther one penetrates in the interior. The
mountains of the Coast Range are here farther from the
coast than they were toward the north, but they may still be
ssen when the air is clear. These mountains are full of
iron ore, which the negroes smelt and manufacture into
knives, spears, hoes, adzes and many other tools. The
iron possesses a toughness which makes it valuable, and
the negroes prize it above any iron or steel they can
purchase from the traders. Elephants abound on these
mountains, and their ivory forms one of the most valuable
articles of export from Eloby.

At the southern end of Corisco Bay is the mouth of a
small river called the Moondah. This river in the dry
season literally swarms with ducks, geese, storks, cranes,
pelicans, flamingos and many other birds, and is as fine a
hunting ground as any lover of nature could wish. But a
few miles up this river is something far more interesting
than birds ; it is a large coffee farm belonging to the great
shipping firm of C. Woermann & Co., of Hamburg. A day
spent in visiting this fine plantation may be made thor-
oughly enjoyable. A large number of trees have been set
out, some of which are just coming into bearing. The
coffee is of the Liberian variety, and the quality fully equal
to the best Java. While this plantation is doing well, it is
almost certain that the coffee tree will do better farther
from the sea, and perhaps upon a greater elevation. The
mountains of the interior will be the great coffee district of
the future, just as it is at the present time in Brazil. In
the not far distant future railways will penetrate these
mountains in every direction, and they will then be culti-
vated from base to summit, for in this favored climate
every foot of ground can be made to yield abundantly.

In the settlement of Equatorial Africa, contrary to the
rule in temperate climates, the hills and mountains will be
settled first ; the plains and lowlands afterward ; and as the



mountains are everywhere covered with rich soil, it will not
be difficult to carry on agricultural operations there, for the
slopes can either be terraced and sown to rice, or breadfruit,
oranges, mangos or other valuable trees can be grown, and
the plantain and banana flourish everywhere. These hills
now support a heavy forest growth, and this can in a few
years be supplanted by fruit trees that will support a large
population. The lowland, as has already been stated, can
be best worked in large estates by native labor.

The Kisanga steamed slowly into Corisco Bay, making
several turns to avoid the reefs, and at 3 p. m. achored in
front of the large English factory at the mouth of the Muni,
of which Mr. Jones is the chief agent. The Kisanga had
been sighted when she entered the Bay, and as soon as the
anchor was down Mr. Jones came on board and welcomed
our friends once more to Africa. After an hour's conver-
sation he invited them ashore to dinner, and at five o'clock
they went, accompanied by the Captain.

The country about Corisco Bay is in dispute between
France and Spain. France has a small station at the mouths
of both rivers, and tries to collect duty on the trade goods
that are landed. Spain has a military station on Eloby
Island, a short distance out in the Bay, and compels each
factory to pay one thousand dollars a year license in lieu of
custom duties, which are more difficult to collect. Between
these two powers the traders have an unhappy time of it.
Much of the West Coast is now passing through a transition
period, and political affairs are not in all cases as tranquil
as in older communities.

Mr. Jones' establishment is very pleasantly situated
upon a rocky bluff some thirty feet above the waters of the
Bay, and commands a wide view. From the front veranda
the hillgirt shores of the Bay and the islands of Elobv and
Corisco to the westward presented a fine panorama in the
mellow light of the setting sun. This factory is just one



degree north of the equator, and the days and nights are
practically equal throughout the year. This is a very-
agreeable arrangement, and the perfect regularity of day
and night all through the year is much more pleasant than
the constant change found in temperate latitudes.

Our friends were bound for Gaboon, which is only fifty
miles south of Eloby, and Mr. Jones promised to send them
around in a few days on one of his small steamers ; but
Captain Thompson persuaded them to go south with him
and land at Gaboon on their way back, as it was necessary
for him to go to the Island of St. Thomas, and he preferred
to do so on his outward-bound voyage ; so it was settled
that they should go south with him, and they left letters
with Mr. Jones to be forwarded to their friends at Gaboon.

One of the attractive features of the dinner that even-
ing was turtle soup. Turtles of large size come on the
sandy beach of Corisco at night and are captured by hunters
who watch for them in the moonlight. They sometimes
weigh as much as six hundred pounds, but the usual size
is from two hundred to three hundred pounds ; the flesh is
excellent, and one of the best ways of preparing it is the
usual negro fashion of putting it in " bundles." To do this
several pieces of banana leaf are cut about two feet in
length, and the mid-rib pared down thin ; these are then
slightly wilted over the fire. The meat is now heaped up
on one of these pieces of leaf, and some fresh palm oil
poured over it and a couple of dozen of small chile peppers
added. The meat is now enclosed in several thicknesses of
the banana leaf, which is securely tied and the " bundle "
placed in the hot ashes, where it is allowed to cook slowly
for several hours. As no steam can escape the meat
becomes very tender, and all the delicate flavor is retained.
This mode of cooking will make the toughest meat tender
and is superior to any mode of cooking meat practiced in
the home lands. Another feature of the dinner was fresh



vegetables from Mr. Jones' garden. The purely tropical
vegetables, such as breadfruit and plantains, along with
yams, sweet potatoes and the arum esculatum, quite take
the place of our home vegetables, and yet northerners like
the taste of cabbage, onions, lettuce, radishes and cucum-
bers, as these remind them of home. All these were grown
by Mr. Jones in his garden. After dinner, as they sat upon
the piazza and enjoyed Mr. Jones' cigars, they were treated
to home-made chocolate instead of coffee. This was
another of the products of Eloby. Mr. Jones has cleared a
space of a few acres on the hillside and planted it with
cacao, and this chocolate was made by his cook from the
beans. Mr. Jones informed our friends that the pods
ripened continuously for several months, and that all the
care the bushes required was to keep them clear of the
grass and vines ; this he did by hand, but when the beans
are raised in a commercial way the cultivation could be-
best carried on by mule power. Our friends found the
chocolate to be rich, smooth, and of a fine flavor — superior
to the chocolate offered for sale in the grocery stores at
home. Oranges also grow well at Eloby and ripen their
fruit in May, when they are scarce and high in the markets
of Europe. One of the pleasures of the tropics is that the
open air is delightfully agreeable all through the year, and
unless it is actually raining hard it is pleasant to sit out on
the piazza every evening and enjoy the light, cool breeze.

Our friends continued in earnest conversation until a
late hour, when they returned to the Kisanga, and were
soon asleep in their bunks.

The next day was a busy one, and a large quantity of
cargo was landed. In the evening the agents from the
factories on Eloby Island came to take dinner with Mr.
Jones, and a very enjoyable evening was spent by all hands.
Mr. Schiff seemed to be especially happy ; he had his own
ways to be sure, but he was the prince of good fellows



and never enjoyed himself as much as when he had plenty
of his friends about him.

The Kisanga sailed from Eloby at noon on Friday, and
before sundown the shores of Corisco Bay had faded from
sight on the eastern horizon.


Chapter VIII


AS the sun rose above the waters on Saturday morn-
ing the Island of St. Thomas was seen on the
starboard bow, and before ten o'clock the Kisanga

anchored in the harbor of St. Anna de Chanes


which is the principal port of the island, and a few miles
south of the equator. St. Thomas belongs to Portugal >
and was once a pet colony of the mother country. Roads
and bridges were constructed in every direction over the
island ; the culture of the cane was carried to the highest
perfection, and as many as fifteen large ships were laden
with sugar in a single season. Costly churches were built
in the towns, with variegated marble floors, and statues and
other ornaments ; indeed the island was on the high road
to prosperty, when in an evil hour the culture of cane was
interdicted in order to encourage its growth in Brazil, and
of course the planters were ruined. At the present time
coffee has in a measure taken its place, but the heavy taxes
discourage the investment of capital, and the island is not
so prosperous as it ought to be.

The location of this beautiful island is exceptionally
good, being in the centre cool current from the South
Atlantic, and one hundred and eighty miles distant from

xi 161


the continent of Africa. The land rises in the centre of
the island to a height of eight thousand feet, so that it
has almost every range of warm and temperate climate,
and almost every product of the world may be grown
there. Under an enlightened government, with freedom
from taxes for a fewyears until its industries were well
established, and a little help from the home country in the
shape of a subsidized line of steamers, St. Thomas could
be made the garden of the world ; as it is even now one
of the most beautiful islands of the ocean.

Captain Thompson had some business errands on shore
and our friends went with him to see the town and for the
sake of a walk. They found it a city of several thousand
inhabitants, presenting much the same features as Las
Palmas on Grand Canary, but with a richer growth of
vegetation. The health}- appearance of the Portuguese
men, women and children showed clearly that the climate
of this tropical isle was healthy, as well as agreeable. If a
narrow-gauge railway was built up the mountain it would
make one of the finest winter resorts for invalids from the
frozen North, and a fashionable resort for merchants and
planters from all parts of the Coast. There is a sub-marine
cable here connecting with Cadiz, in Spain, and Captain
Thompson sent a cablegram to his owners announcing
his safe arrival.

By i p. m. our friends were on board their floating
home, and two hours later the Kisanga steamed away to
the southward, and by nightfall St. Thomas was only a
dark form draped in clouds in the northern horizon.

That evening, as the little party sat upon the deck
beneath the awning smoking their pipes, the conversation
turned upon the reputed unhealthfulness of the African
continent, and its probable effect in preventing colonization
by Europeans. Said Mr. King : " I believe this unhealth-
fulness is more apparent than real ; when you come to



examine the matter carefully, you will find, first, that the
climate is not so deadly as is popularly supposed ; second,
that some other countries in the world where white people
live, and I might almost say thrive, are quite as unhealthy as
Africa. That people can live in Africa we ourselves are
witnesses, for three of us have lived there for fifteen years,
and we have found it on the whole a much more agreeable
climate than we have in the home-land. Then we are each
of us acquainted with men of our own race who have lived
thirty years or more and who have enjoyed as good health
as the average citizen at home, and I don't know but better.
All these men I speak of have lived on or near the sea
coast, usually in swampy districts, have worked hard,
endured man}- privations and hardships, especially during
their first years of residence on the Coast, and have not
always lived as comfortable as we do now. Again, the
entire Western Coast is lined with a fringe of settlements,
often extending up the rivers, with a considerable European
population who seem to get along as comfortably as the
foreign population in any tropical land ; this European
population, stationed every few miles along the coast, is a
standing argument, a living witness to the inhabitability of
the land by the white race. This, mark you, is not theory,
it is an accomplished fact. But are these river and coast
settlements the best for health that the country affords?
Let us take my own country and see how it would be there.
Suppose settlements were made along the Gulf of Mexico,
in the delta of the Mississippi, and along the swampy banks
of that river, would we consider those choice locations for
residence ? Our people live in these places, it is true, and
so they do in Africa, but we all prefer the higher and more
open lands of the interior. Now I do not wish to conceal
the fact that the pioneers in the African wilderness will
meet with a high death rate ; they do in every country, and
they will here ; but that does not prove that the country is



not adapted to our race. Look at the settlement of our
own New England States ; the death rate among the early
colonists was enormous, far greater than it probably will be
in any attempt to colonize Africa.

" Another thing I wish to call your attention to ; every
tropical country in the world has a considerable resident
European population ; Mexico, Central America, Bolivia,
Peru, Venezula and Brazil in America ; India, Ceylon,
Burmah, Assam and Java in Asia ; now why should Africa
be an exception ? The fact is Africa is not an exception ;
it is not one whit more unhealthy than many other countries.
It is time the world came to the knowledge of the truth
that it can go to Africa and live as w T ell as it can in any
other hot country under similar circumstances. Run a few
railways through this country ; build one or two cities like
Bombay and Calcutta ; let it be noised abroad that money
can be made in growing rice, coffee and cane ; stop this
everlasting expedition business with its blood and thunder
stories of the horrible ; make Alt. Albert and St. Thomas
fashionable winter resorts for the rich and invalid of Europe,
and you will hear no more of the unhealthfulness of

" You will surely admit," said Mr. Sinclair, " that
there is fever here, for you have had it twice yourself."

" Yes," replied Mr. King, " I do admit there is fever
here, and the fact that I have had it twice myself shows
that a man can live through it ; but I call your attention
to the fact that there is fever in Cuba, in Vera Cruz, in
Rio de Janeiro, in India, Ceylon, Burmah and all the
countries of Asia. Both cholera and the plague have their
home in India, and have marched through Europe, but they
are unknown in Africa. I do not wish to say that people
never die in Africa, nor that they do not die frequently
before their time ; all I wish to do is to show that in this
respect Africa is no exception to other countries."



" I believe," asserted Mr. Schiff, " that a man who is
born to be drowned will never be hung ; there may perhaps
be fever in Africa, but there is no consumption, nor cancer,
nor diphtheria, nor pneumonia, nor dyspepsia."

" Well, I should think there would be," said Mr.
Sinclair, " the way you shoveled in the turtle at Mr. Jones'
the other night, to say nothing of everything else you ate."

" Jones cooked those things for us, didn't he? " asked
Mr. Schiff, " and I only wanted to do honor to the

" I must admit," retorted Mr. Sinclair, " that you suc-
ceeded remarkably well."

" What do you think is the cause of this fever ? "
inquired Mr. Alexander.

" I do not know," replied Mr. King, "there are many
theories, but the subject has never been studied as it should
have been. The popular idea is that it is the combined
product of heat and moisture ; some think it comes from
decaying vegetation ; if the cause could be surely ascer-
tained, it might not be difficult to find a remedy. It is
known that the cause of consumption, which destroys one-
sixth of the human race, is a microscopic parasitic plant
called a bacillus ; something of this kind may possibly be
the cause of fever. Mark you, now, I am only a layman,
and the opinion I am going to express is only a layman's
opinion, but here it is. In some way that I do not under-
stand there is generated a certain poison, popularly called
malaria, which most likely is parasitic in its nature, and
which in certain countries is present in both air and water.
This microscopic parasite enters the body, and especially
the blood, and then a war begins ; like every war it is waged
for the mastery ; the body, if it is healthy and well
nourished, will not allow itself to be effected by this
insidious enemy ; the intestinal canal throws it off, the
white corpuscles of the blood devour it, and the body con-



tinues in a healthy condition. On the other hand, if there
is any morbid action within the body, caused by fear,
organic weakness, exposure, lack of nourishment, anything
that reduces the vital powers, the little bacilli get the
upper hand, multiply rapidly, break down the structure of
the blood, derange the working of all the organs, and you
have a result which you call fever."

"How can this be either prevented or cured?" in-
quired Mr. Sinclair.

" That is the great question of the age," replied Mr.
King. " The man who can answer that in a successful
and practical way can have a fortune larger than the
Rothchilds. The warmer regions of the earth present such
superior attractions that if your question could be answered
easily, the colder regions of the world would soon be almost
depopulated in the rush for homes in the beautiful lands
of the tropics. Still, I think it will not be many years
before it is known. Medical science has made wonderful
progress in the last few years, and it seems to me this
desirable secret of how to stay the action of malaria is
almost within our grasp. A remedy has been discovered
for consumption ; a preventative for small-pox ; surgical
operations are now successfully performed that were impos-
sible ten years ago ; the cause of cholera is known, and the
origin and nature of malaria can scarcely remain a mystery
much longer."

" Has not Louis Pasteur made some valuable dis-
coveries?" inquired Mr. Alexander.

"Yes," replied Mr. King, "this distinguished French
savant determined that the disease known as anthrax,
which affects animals more particularly, is caused by a
bacillus known as the anthrax bacillus. He discovered
that if this bacillus was cultivated it lost to a certain extent
its virulent character, and could be injected into sheep
without danger ; he also found that sheep thus treated with

1 66


diluted virus were protected against virus still more intense,
and finally they could be made absoluted proof against
disease. Now, it may be that if the poison we call malaria
could be definitely ascertained, that by passing it through
health}- animals, as is done with the vaccine virus, or by
cultivating it in the laboratory, as was done with the
anthrax bacillus, it might be injected into the human body
and thus render that bod}' proof against further attacks.
But there is another plan of treatment I have thought of :
— the two assistants of the celebrated Dr. Koch announce
that diphtheria and lockjaw may be prevented or cured by
the injection of blood of animals which are themselves
incapable of being attacked by these diseases, because the
white corpuscles of the blood of these animals have a
peculiar voraciousness for the bacilli that cause these

Mr. Schiff listened with deep interest and was quite
warmed up by Mr. King's remarks. " Who knows," said
he, " but some day I may have the blood of a bush nigger
pumped into me to cure me of the fever? I believe I will
stick to calomel for a while yet."

Mr. Schiff was a great believer in calomel, and no
wonder, for he had seen it produce most beneficent results
when other remedies were of no avail. The idea which
prevails in some quarters that fever may be successfully
fought with quinine alone, has been responsible for many
deaths. In our present state of knowledge fever ma}- be
cured without quinine, but not without calomel. The
native fever-leaf and pepper may be made to take the place
of quinine, but nothing yet known can take the place of
calomel ; this latter drug appears to neutralize the poison
in the blood, and then, with proper nervous stimulants, the
patient ma}- recover.

It is somewhat singular that savants have not turned
their attention to the origin and nature of malaria ; no



greater boom could to-day be conferred upon man dnd than
the discovery of some means by which the human body
could be made to resist the attacks of this insidious foe.
This discovery should not be a difficult one to make, and
an enormous fortune awaits the man who shall be so
fortunate as to find it. Of course, Africa not only can, but
will be settled whether this discovery be made or not ; but
if a preventative remedy could be found, it would not only
save an immense amount of suffering, but it would make
the white race absolute masters of the world. Take away
the fear of malaria and white men will flourish in the torrid
regions as they now do in the cooler climates, and as it is
the workers who are to possess the earth, so the inferior

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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 13 of 17)